United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
John Doe brings suit against Kentucky State University and a
handful of its employees pursuant to Title IX and Kentucky
state law. Defendant Justin Mathis has moved for dismissal
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of Count Three of the Complaint,
but only as against him in his individual capacity. Mr.
Mathis argues that he is not bound by the tolling agreement
executed by John Doe and Defendant KSU, and that therefore,
the negligence claim against him in Count Three is barred by
the applicable statute of limitations. The Court agrees.
Accordingly, for the following reasons, Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.
John Doe was a student at Kentucky State University in
Frankfort, Kentucky. [R. 1.] Between September 27, 2017 and
September 30, 2017, Mr. Doe traveled to Washington, D.C. with
Kentucky State personnel as part of a new student recruitment
trip. [R. 1 at ¶ 17.] Defendant Justin Mathis was
Director of Admissions at KSU at the time and was also part
of the recruitment trip. [R. 1 at ¶¶ 17-18.] While
in D.C., Mr. Doe alleges that Mr. Mathis sexually harassed
him, and attempted to coerce Mr. Doe into sharing a hotel
room with him.
on August 22, 2018, Mr. Doe entered into an agreement with
Kentucky State University and its counsel, Attorney Lisa
Lang, tolling the statute of limitations and extending his
time to initiate suit until November 1, 2018. The Agreement
states “[t]he claimant and the Defendants agree . . .
to toll any and all applicable statutes of limitations as it
relates to Title IX and sexual harassment issues, including
claims for negligent hiring, training, retention and
supervision of employees for filing suit by the Claimant
against the Defendants[, ]” and purports to bind
“Kentucky State University and its employees, officers,
principals, members, partners and/or agents
individually.” [R. 16-1.] Mr. Doe initiated this
lawsuit on November 1, 2018, in accordance with the
agreement, and included claims against Mr. Mathis in both his
official and individual capacity.
Justin Mathis moves to dismiss the claim against him in his
individual capacity, because he asserts it is barred by the
statute of limitations. Mr. Mathis states that he was not
party to the agreement tolling the statute of limitations
that Mr. Doe entered into with KSU, and in fact was not even
a KSU employee at the time. Mr. Mathis argues that KSU did
not have the authority to enter this agreement on his behalf,
and that there was no reason for Mr. Doe to believe KSU had
such authority. Therefore, Mr. Mathis believes that the
agreement is void as to the claim against him in his
individual capacity, and the same must be dismissed.
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the
sufficiency of a plaintiff's complaint. In reviewing a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court “construe[s] the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
accept[s] its allegations as true, and draw[s] all inferences
in favor of the plaintiff.” DirecTV, Inc. v.
Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007) (citation
omitted). The Court, however, “need not accept as true
legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.”
Id. (quoting Gregory v. Shelby County, 220
F.3d 433, 446 (6th Cir. 2000)). The Supreme Court explained
that in order “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). See also Courier
v. Alcoa Wheel & Forged Products, 577 F.3d 625, 629
(6th Cir. 2009). Dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is
appropriate where the Court can determine from the face of
the complaint that the statute of limitations has run.
Am. Premier Underwriters, Inc. v. AMTRAK, 839 F.3d
458, 464 (6th Cir. 2016).
parties agree that Plaintiff's claims are subject to a
one-year statute of limitations, and that the accrual date
for the cause of action was between September 27, 2017 and
September 30, 2017. K.R.S. § 413.140(1)(a). The
complaint was not filed until November 1, 2018. [R. 1.]
Whether the complaint was timely filed as to Mr. Mathis,
then, depends upon whether Mr. Mathis was, in his individual
capacity, bound by the tolling agreement executed in August
2018. If not, then the statute of limitations has run as to
the clam against him in his individual capacity, and it must
to Kentucky law, “written agreements entered in good
faith and at arms length to extend limitations periods for
the filing of civil actions . . . shall be valid and
enforceable according to their terms.” K.R.S. §
413.265. Mr. Doe asserts that Mr. Mathis is bound by the
tolling agreement in this case, regardless of whether he was
aware of the agreement, because “the tolling agreement
specifically addresses any possible causes of actions against
the Defendants” and “he can still be sued as he
was an employee of the Defendant Kentucky State University
during the dates at issue in this lawsuit.” [R. 16 at
against Mr. Mathis in his official capacity as Dean at KSU is
functionally equivalent to a claim against KSU itself,
because “individuals sued in their official capacities
stand in the shoes of the entity they represent.”
Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 810 (6th Cir. 2003)
(citing Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165
(1985)). Therefore, Defendant Mathis does not argue that KSU
could not toll the statute of limitations relating to a suit
against him in his official capacity as their employee.
Individual capacity suits, however, seek to impose personal
liability against a defendant. Thus, “a victory in a
personal capacity action is a victory against the individual
defendant, rather than against the entity that employs
him.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167-68
(1985). For that reason, Mr. Mathis argues that neither KSU
nor its counsel, Lisa Lang, had the authority to bind him in
the tolling agreement. The Court agrees.
neither Mr. Mathis' signature nor that of his counsel
appears on the tolling agreement. [R. 16-1.] Attorney Lisa
Lang, whose name does appear on the agreement, is a member of
KSU's General Counsel Office. Id. And while the
other defendants, Dr. Christopher Brown and Brandon Williams,
are represented by KSU attorneys in both their official and
individual capacities, Mr. Mathis has sought his own counsel.
[R. 13.] Second, Mr. Mathis was no longer employed by KSU at
the time the agreement was executed, and it seems he was not
even aware the agreement existed until this suit was filed.
[R. 18-1 at 1.] Indeed, Mr. Mathis could not even be located
for service of process, and it required a warning order
attorney be appointed on his behalf to apprise him of this
lawsuit. [R. 11.] While KSU is at liberty to toll limitations
with respect to suits against Mr. Mathis in ...